April 16th, 2007 03:57 EST
First Mission for Iraqi tankers
CAMP TAJI — Iraqi Army tankers took the lead on their first real mission by conducting a mounted patrol in their T-55 tanks on a major highway near Kem, Iraq Thursday.IA Soldiers from the1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) went on a joint mission with U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and searched for insurgents who would endanger the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians.
Leading up to the patrol, the Iraqi Army tankers received training for more than three months from Soldiers of the Company C “Cobras” from 2-8 Cavalry.The training included maintenance on T-55 tanks; instruction on how to drive the tanks, gunnery on all the various tank weapons systems, and other instructions concerning combat operations.
“They’ve really come a long way,” said Capt. Nels Hanson, commander ofCobra Company. “We’re hoping to empower them more and more each day and this week we’ll continue taking them on more patrols. We’ll do this for several days as we want them to gain confidence as they continue becoming more competent at doing this.”Hanson said he sees this first patrol as a small step toward opening doors of self-reliance for the Iraqi Army as they continue to take over responsibility for their area of operations.
“Eventually, they will be able to fully take over in their areas of responsibility and it’s a good opportunity to get more IA troops into the fight and less U.S. Soldiers into the fight,” Hanson said.Hanson said one of the keys to success were Iraqi platoon leaders who assisted his Soldiers with training the Iraqi tankers.“Many of them had served in the Army under the previous regime,” saidHanson.
“We explained to them how we wanted to see the training conducted and they did an excellent job in executing the training and being involved in the day-to-day activities.”Although, the day’s mission found no insurgent activity, it was a great example of the progress the IA tankers have made and the future that is to come.
“We’re very proud of them, they’re very motivated and we were happy to see them out there,” said Capt. Wes Durham, who works with the military transition team for 2-8 Cavalry.
“The next step will be integrating them into more complex missions.”“It feels good to share in this milestone,” said Spc. Jason Aschenbrenner, a humvee gunner and infantryman with Cobra Company.
“The Iraqi troops just keep getting better at their jobs and they show that they really do care about the security of their people.”
(Story by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)